Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sometimes occurs in people who have experienced a traumatic event. The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) defines traumatic events as “shocking” situations that lead to feelings of “intense fear, horror, numbness, or helplessness,” such as natural disasters and acts of violence. The ISTSS includes child abuse and neglect as events that may lead to PTSD.

Children who have been in institutions such as orphanages may have experienced some traumatic events. They may have been orphaned as a result of war or natural disaster, or they may have been removed from their birth homes as a result of abuse. They may have been neglected in underfunded orphanages.

However, not all children who have experienced traumatic events will develop PTSD. Therefore, many adoptive parents may want to be aware of the symptoms of PTSD so they may pursue a diagnosis from a qualified therapist or from suboxone rehab who are under addiction.

Symptoms of PTSD

Children with PTSD may act very differently from adults with the condition, and their symptoms may vary with age. Children who are too young to express their ideas verbally, for example, will display their fears in a more general way than their older peers. They may seem anxious around strangers. They may sleep fitfully. They may also have difficulty learning age-appropriate skills.

School-aged children, however, may show a different set of symptoms. They may be able to describe the trauma in words, but they may relate it in an illogical way. They may believe they received warning signs before the trauma took place and become watchful for new signs. They may draw pictures of the trauma or obsessively engage in violent play.

As children grow older, their symptoms may be more typical of the behaviors therapists often see in adults with PTSD. However, they are more likely to become impulsive or aggressive as a result of their disorder. They may incorporate some parts of the trauma into their daily lives.

Internationally Adopted Children and PTSD

Dr. Boris Gindis is a licensed psychologist who specializes in international adoption. Through his extensive experience, he has observed several triggers that may indicate a diagnosis of PTSD. One is a negative reaction to the child’s first language. For example, some children adopted from Russian-speaking countries may become upset or angry when they hear someone speaking Russian. They may try to run away, or avoid situations in which Russian is spoken.

Another trigger Gindis describes is the threat of physical punishment. Many adoptive parents have apparently told him that their children often over-react to any action that “has even some resemblance to corporal punishment.” He feels this may be an indication of an inability to overcome a previous traumatic experience.

He has also observed that many adopted children with PTSD may show more symptoms near holidays such as Christmas. Many of these children will become more agitated as the holidays approach. While this is also true for many people who do not have PTSD or who were not internationally adopted, it should be considered if it occurs in combination with other symptoms or indicators.

Treatment of PTSD

Because PTSD affects many aspects of a child’s life, many adoptive parents hope to help their children heal. Fortunately, many children do overcome PTSD, and there are a several methods that seem to achieve good results when families educate themselves and work with qualified professionals.

Play therapy may be the most helpful method for children who are to young to describe the traumatic event in words. Through a licensed play therapist, children can express and overcome their feelings through games and toys.

Another treatment method is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As part of this approach, the therapist attempts to connect the child’s history to the triggers. The goal is to process the memory of these events in a different way so that the child can react to new experiences in more appropriate ways.

Adults with PTSD are often helped by Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and it may be effective for school-aged or older children as well. During CBT sessions with a licensed therapist, the child may discuss the traumatic event. The therapist may help the child to re-organize some of his or thoughts and conclusions related to the trauma. Children may also learn methods for dealing with anxiety while participating in CBT.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious problem that can affect many areas of a child’s life. PTSD often prevents children from learning well, developing healthy relationships or overcoming the pain of the original traumatic event. Since all children who have experienced trauma are susceptible to PTSD, parents of internationally adopted children need to be aware of the symptoms so they can find accepted methods of treatment to help them heal.

The NIHM statistics for the U.S. reveal that approximately 7.7 million Americans are experiencing the disorder and many more people worldwide. The majority of sufferers are adults, with the most common age of onset being people in their early 20s.

Who Experiences PTSD?

PTSD is a common anxiety disorder partly due to the fact that it affects millions of war veterans who have developed this condition of chronic stress during wartime, following combat duties. In the early days of its recognition in soldiers, it was referred to by names such as “combat fatigue” and “soldier’s heart.”

It can also result from other traumatic experiences, including accidents that result in serious physical injuries to oneself or from witnessing or causing accidents in which death or injury occurs to loved ones or to anyone who is terminally injured.

PTSD can also result in those who have had violent and/or sexually deviant behaviors perpetrated upon them and in those whose loved ones have suddenly passed away or have departed from them under difficult circumstances (sometimes referred to as “separation anxiety” in these cases).

Symptoms of PTSD

As with other anxiety disorders, PTSD causes frequent triggering of the “fight or flight response”, the anxiety mechanism that increases adrenaline in the body. The resulting symptoms can include panic attacks and free-floating type anxiety symptoms in which a person feels continually anxious, apprehensive and on-edge.

Some of the characteristic symptoms that set PTSD apart from other anxiety disorders include nightmares involving the traumatic event(s) experienced by the disorder sufferer and flashbacks in which they believe they are reliving the events that triggered the disorder. While flashbacks are a type of delusion, this does not place PTSD in the “psychosis” category, but it is still considered to be a condition of “neurosis.”

Treatments

The more common type of medication therapy used to treat PTSD patients is SSRI antidepressants. However, this type of anxiety disorder usually requires psychiatric therapy for patients to successfully cope with the disorder and for possible resolution of it (complete recovery). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been found to be highly successful in helping patients recover from this and other chronic anxiety disorders.

Other therapies that may be administered, in combination with drug treatment or as single treatments, include therapies called “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” (EMDR), “Exposure Therapy” (facing the event mentally to find closure) and aspects of therapy that help sexually traumatized victims realize they are not at fault and should not be experiencing guilt over their experiences.

Anyone who believes they may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD should see their medical doctor or a licensed mental health professional as soon as possible.

The Wild Man had PTSD

According to John and Caitlin Matthews, often as a consequence of participation in warfare, now and then a person who was most likely to be a grown man would run off into the wilds. Those who saw him flee perceived him as having been profoundly upset and possibly out of his mind. One case of this story has been found in Druidic British traditions as the case of the Wild Man. Eventually, he came back to civilization, no longer crazy from his war trauma. The great joy and hope of this story is that PTSD can be cured, and in many of the cases where it cannot be, it can be greatly reduced.

Prevention

Specialized mental training can prevent the onset of some PTSD. PTSD is best prevented by strong emotional and social support during and especially after the event. The person should talk about it if that is at all possible and should be supported by the others – whomever they are. Getting the event into perspective will help. When the events take place during a deployment they may have to be reviewed, and contextualized for peace time surroundings. In some cases, only cumulative traumatic stress will even put a person at serious risk of developing it. Making sure that help is available is an important step in the healing process.

Treatment

The old therapy of running off into the wilds is not normally available to sufferers today. In some cases modified exposures to reminders with safer outcomes can reduce the affect of the reactions. There are also times when EMDR therapy can be used to treat PTSD. Frequently, talk therapy combined with at least temporary use of a psychoactive medication specific to the problem, and some type of “exposure therapy” will yield best results. Fortunately, for most people who suffer from PTSD, it clears up within six months. For those who cannot be cured, or who take decades to cure, they can still be greatly healed, making the reactions less overwhelming to their personalities and daily lives than it was when it was at its worst.